Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Erin Z.-R.

This day was all about the census, the American FactFinder, the American Community Survey, and the Economic Survey. More and more census/statistical information is going into American Fact Finder and less into paper and online sources like cd-roms. The American FactFinder website has information located in several places so that there are many ways to find information.

The most often used section is “Data Sets” The “About the Data” link describes the many types of surveys and sets available.
When you open “Data Sets” you see a series of SF (summary files) labeled 1, 2, 3, and 4. A summary file is a group of tables. SF 1 and SF2 are from the short form, 2 contains more detailed information about race and ethnicity. SF 3 and 4 are from the long form (the longer survey that some people received) and 4 contains more detailed data about race and ethnicity. Whether one chooses 1, 2, 3, or 4 depends on if you want basic race/ethnicity statistics or statistics about more specific racial/ethnic groups. Hispanic is not considered a race so if you are trying to find statistics regarding Hispanic populations you will want to choose a more detailed table than is in the basic datasets.

Detailed tables is a subset of data sets. Once you select the geography you are searching (The Census refers to cities as places, you should check to see if the customer wants data for a city or a metropolitan area as the Census is very specific on geographic areas.), then click on “next”. This takes you to a page where you can select a specific table you want to search. Before you add the table and click on “show results”, you can highlight the table name and click on “What’s this”, which is a button to the right. This will bring up a mock table with the data left out, to show you how the information would display if you were to use this table.

Questions from the 2000 Census can be found here . The 2010 Census will be different because the long form will be replaced by the American Community Survey. To see a list of the questions planned for the 2010 Census and American Community Survey, click here.

Thematic maps map statistical information by geographic area on a map. First you select the geographic area. If you want to search or display by county, you must choose state in the geographic section. Then you select your theme by choosing a table and then click “show results”.

The American Community Survey is a nationwide survey designed to show how communities are changing. It has been conducted since 2000 and includes estimates of demographic and economic characteristics of people, households and housing units for areas with a certain population size in certain comparison sites. The How to Use the Data tab on the top of the page takes you to a very useful page with links to information on when and how to compare the latest ACS with previous ACS’ and the Census: click on the link on the left hand side “Guidance on Comparing 2006 ACS Data to Other Sources”.

One important example of a difference is that before 2006 the ACS didn’t have statistics for “Group Quarters“ Group Quarters are defined as “a place where people live or stay that is normally owned or managed by an entity or organization providing housing and/or services for the residents. These services may include custodial or medical care as well as other types of assistance, and residency is commonly restricted to those receiving these services. People living in group quarters are usually not related to each other. Group quarters include such places as college residence halls, residential treatment centers, skilled nursing facilities, group homes, military barracks, correctional facilities, workers' dormitories, and facilities for people experiencing homelessness “. There are also links to information on “Accuracy of Data” and “Errata”. Another issue in ACS is that the American Community Survey (ACS) does not present data for all geographic areas if they are under the sampling size. Information on what areas are covered can be found by clicking on “Explain Missing Geographies” in the “Select Geography” section. This doesn’t mean that the data isn’t worthwhile, just that you need to be careful to check what the surveys measured when comparing different years.

Types of searches available in ACS include: Data Sets in which you first search by geographical area and information if brought up on social statistics. At the top of the results page there are links for economic, housing, demographic, and narrative statistical displays that you can view by clicking on the link, Ranking tables rank states by different categories, Selected Population Profiles offer detailed racial information, and Subject Tables contain pre-made tables.

The Economic Census (or see reports here) profiles American business every 5 years, from the national to the local level. This page has a FAQ link and an “Ask Dr. Census” link that can provide more information on resources. The census site also has information on where to find the latest business data since 2002 as it also conducts a number of other business surveys in addition to the Economic Census. One of these surveys is the Survey of Business Owners which is a consolidation of two prior surveys, the Surveys of Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises (SMOBE/SWOBE), and includes questions from a survey discontinued in 1992 on Characteristics of Business Owners (CBO).
Some annual surveys are the County Business Patterns , the Nonemployer Statistics and the Annual Survey of Manufacturers . Due to privacy reasons, the Economic Surveys don’t have statistics on particular companies, just the industry or type of business overall.
April 1, 2010 is the date for the 2010 Census Day . This page has links to information on the 2010 Census, promotional materials on its importance, a timeline, and history. The data taken will be used to see how people, money, and services are distributed and to develop policies on health, education, transportation, social services, and more. Personal information from surveys is not shared with anyone; census staff can be fined or jailed if they share private information. Information on the Census’ Bureau’s Data Protection and Privacy Policy’s can be found here. The 2010 Census will consist of the short form which asks for name, age, race, and whether a home is owned. The Census is a complete count with no standard error. 2010 data will be presented to the president on December 31, 2010 and on April 1, 2011 it will be released to states to work on reapportionment.
The American Community Survey will replace the long form in 2010. The ACS will take a larger sample this year which will make it more reliable and result in smaller margins of error. This survey measures economic, housing, and social data and helps set policy, spending, shows trends, helps determine legislative representation, and is used for research. Answers to some frequently asked questions about the ACS can be found here.
There are some nice training presentations on different Census resources available. You can get to this page also by going to the Special Topics area of Census.gov and clicking on “training”, then “topical seminars and workshops”, “current topical seminars being offered” and “PowerPoint presentations”. The Special Topics area also has a link for teachers and students. Feel free to contact Melissa or me with census questions and if we don’t know the answers, we can contact or refer you or the customer to the Census Bureau or the Minnesota State Demographic Center .

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